Hawaii to keep ‘homegrown’ Longs name

HONOLULU —Assuming the CVS acquisition goes through as planned later this year, Longs Drug will disappear from the retail landscape in California after a 70-year run, but that won’t be the case in Hawaii.

“We will leave the Hawaiian market as Longs,” said CVS chairman and chief executive officer Tom Ryan. “Hawaiians see Longs as a homegrown chain and it’s really a stand-alone market.” Aside from a few independent operators, Longs is the only chain most Hawaiians have known since it opened its first store in Honolulu in 1954, five years before Hawaii even became a state. Since then, Hawaii has become Longs’ second-largest market with 39 stores and several more due to open this year.

Longs had Hawaii to itself until November 2007 when Walgreens became the first large pharmacy chain to move in. The pending arrival of Walgreens prompted Longs to ramp up expansion, with six new openings in 2007, and this year it opened its first store in the state with a drive-through pharmacy window.

But in Longs’ home state of California, CVS plans to convert the more than 450 Longs stores to its own brand. The conversion is expected to be completed by the end of 2009.

CVS already had nearly 400 stores in the state, prior to the deal, Longs Drug chief executive officer Warren Bryant said few are in direct competition with Longs.

“There’s very little geographic overlap,” Bryant said. “The only two broad markets we have [are] Southern California and Las Vegas.

The stock price of Longs Drug rose more than 30 percent to a record high of $73.84 on Aug. 22 following news of the merger, well above the $71.50 per share CVS is offering.

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